Google’s self-driving car project, Waymo, is filing an injunction against Uber over intellectual property rights. Waymo filed a request on Friday for a judge to stop Uber from using technology they say was stolen. If the request is granted, it would add to a growing list of recent public relations crises for Uber, including sexual harassment claims, the emergence of a video in which CEO Travis Kalanick argued with a driver over fares, a scandal in which Uber was found to have evaded law enforcement, and accusations that the company undermined a NY taxi strike in response to Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, accused Uber last month of “calculated theft” of its autonomous driving technology. They alleged that a former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole trade secrets to start Otto, a self-driving truck company which Uber later acquired. Those accusations were focused on Waymo’s LiDAR system, which allows their cars to assess their surroundings in a radar-like fashion.
The lawsuit accuses Uber of benefiting from tens of thousands of confidential files and millions of dollars worth of Google’s research.
The lawsuit would force Uber to return “unlawfully taken” documents, which included testimony by Waymo officials, as well as from one of Levandowski’s former coworkers.
Waymo security engineer Gary Brown said in sworn testimony that 14,000 files were downloaded onto Levandowski’s laptop, and that documents were also taken by two other Waymo employees who later joined Otto. The court filings allege that documents pertaining to calibration, assembly testing, and other areas were stolen.
Waymo’s director of supply chain operations. Tim Willis, testified that a manufacturing engineer now with Otto, Radu Raduta, downloaded an “external vendors and consultants list” from the company.
Hardware engineer and technical lead on the LiDAR project, Pierre-Yves Droz, testified in 2016 that Levandowski told him he hoped to use LiDAR at his Otto firm, and that “he planned to ‘replicate’ this Waymo technology.”
He also wrote in his testimony:
“We were having dinner at a restaurant near the office, and [Levandowski] told me that it would be nice to create a new self-driving car startup and that Uber would be interested in buying the team responsible for the LiDAR we were developing at Google.”
Uber declined to comment on the new court filings, but referred to an earlier statement that said:
“We have reviewed Waymo’s claims and determined them to be a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor and we look forward to vigorously defending against them in court.”